One of the highlights of this Pro Tour weekend was a feature well away from the lights and splendor of the show. Two artists arrived Friday, committed to working on an art project that can be best described as unique.
Eric Deschamps and Cynthia Sheppard, talented illustrators in Magic for years, joined Pro Tour Magic2015 to embark on a journey with Garruk. Collaborating on a creating a new piece of art with Garruk doesn't sound very exciting until you know the rest: A wheel of things to be added or taken out of the art was on hand, and spectators would spin the wheel to change the artwork live.
The end result was a unique piece of art, filled with mundane and nonsensical things, to be made into ten exclusive play mats or prints given away. It was one of the many ways all weekend that spectators could participate and win without being a Pro Tour participant.
Collaboration, let alone adapting to changes, was the first obstacle Sheppard and Deschamps had to overcome. "This is the first time and I was really excited about it," Deschamps said. "As an illustrator we're always doing stuff by ourselves so it was really nice to work collaboratively. If I was working on a portion of Garruk and got stuck I'd just stop instead of continuing. 'Oh, Cynthia can fix this!' That was real nice: We could take our strengths and weakness and combine them together."
"This is the first time I've ever done a collaborative live art event," Sheppard said. "They picked two good artists because Eric [Deschamps] and I work well together. Usually when there's a team one will take the lead and other will follow. In this case we've just been passing it back and forth like a hive mind. Once we figured out the sketch it went really smoothly from there."
"What was kind of funny about this whole thing was figuring out how to make it work. How do you do that?" Deschamps said. "We have separate computers, separate screens. I'm going to work on the background; You're going to work on Garruk. In 30 minutes we'll switch and combine them. It was really fun: We were just passing a thumb drive back and forth."
Of course, all art starts somewhere and for these two it was the core sketch they'd seed themselves with. "It was just trying to come up with an interesting pose for Garruk. We already had in our heads a swampy forest kind of background," Deschamps explained. "I was just trying to think of a cool pose that was a little bit different than what I'd do for a Planeswalker card. It usually has to be a full body view so I was okay if his feet were cropped out, stuck in the muddy water. You usually can't do that with a Planeswalker."
Once the wheel started turning though, all bets were off as each had to react to the new elements at work. Additions throughout the weekend included the skyship Weatherlight from The Weatherlight Saga, an apropos smashed portrait of Garruk's nemesis Liliana Vess, a rainbow, an explosion, and even little Fblthp itself.
"I think at some point Eric [Deschamps] and I realized we made Garruk a little too badass," Sheppard said, "and it started making the silly stuff so out of place. We thought we should have given him a confused expression. Pieces always change midstream so it's interesting to roll with those punches when they occur."
"I was hoping for the hedron and it never came up!" Deschamps said. "We wanted 'scale birds' and 'hang a teddy bear on Garruk's belt.' All the ones we were scared to do came up first. Adding the Weatherlight was the hardest one, and the explosion was tough. Where is this explosion going to fit in the tight swamp?"
"The most fun one was Flblthp so far," Sheppard said. "Ever since Totally Lost he's had his own following and I want to see him come up in more cards. I feel like any time I can insert him into a piece of artwork it's going in the right direction. I'm a Fblthp fan."
"You really had to think ahead and have certain parts of the images completed," Deschamps said. "When they threw in these crazy parts like the Weatherlight we had to think ahead to anticipate adding it. You had to be a little creative in how you added them in."
Meeting the people and players of Magic has been something Sheppard and Deschamps enjoyed as well. "I love events because it's usually a very lonely job being an illustrator, working from home alone," Sheppard said. "This is the one opportunity I have to interact with the people who like these products. I'm also looking forward to the Grand Prix next weekend: I was totally added to the roster at the last minute so I'd love for people to know I'll be there."
"It's great meeting all the different fans," Deschamps said. "Meeting people from all over the place is really cool. It's funny that I've been to enough of these events I can hear someone's accent that I know where's they're from. You're stuck alone 98% of the time in your own little corner of the house so it's nice to hear someone appreciates your work."
How did the piece turn out? You can see the evolution to the final form yourself: